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South Camden and Environmental Justice: Substance, Procedure, and Politics

September 2001

Citation: 31 ELR 11073

Issue: 9

Author: Jeffrey M. Gaba

In two recent decisions styled South Camden Citizens in Action v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection,1 Judge Stephen M. Orlofsky of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey has seemingly put some teeth in the environmental justice movement. The judge not only found that private parties have a cause of action for violation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Title VI environmental justice regulations,2 but, based on the failure of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to properly consider environmental justice issues, he vacated air quality permits issued by the NJDEP and enjoined operation of a cement plant in Camden, New Jersey.3

Although the finding of a private cause ofaction is the most striking aspect of the opinions, there are a number of other fascinating implications of these decisions. First, in applying Title VI civil rights legislation to environmental permitting, the judge apparently applied a new, general environmental standard of "no significant adverse affect" for permit decisions that disproportionately affect minority communities. Thus, a new standard may have been added to the roster of environmental standards and acronyms.

Jeffrey Gaba is a Professor of Law at the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University. He received his M.P.H. at Harvard University in 1989; his J.D. at Columbia University in 1976; and his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1972. Professor Gaba is also Of Counsel to the law firm Gardere & Wynne in Dallas, Texas. He can be reached by e-mail at jgaba@mail.smu.edu.

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